How can I argue with That? (Job 9-10)
November 13, 2010
Job’s frustration is almost palpable in chapters 9-10. He is questioning God, but at the same time he is struggling with the fact that you cannot question God, not really. Well you can, but you won’t get an answer, and if you did you probably wouldn’t want to hear it; “If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand.” (9:2). There is no level playing field here, no arena in which Job can meet God and have it out once and for all. As he puts it “There is no umpire between us, who might lay his hand on us both.” (9:33). In Job’s present experience God is like a parent who oh-so-annoyingly says “I tell you when you’re older”, be he needs to know now! And despite all of his assertions to the contrary, he does question God.
Chapter 10 are a little like a letter from a spurned lover. “I don’t understand why you’re being like this!”, “why are you treating me this way?” (see 10:2, 10:16).Verses 9-12 read like a “baby, remember the good times”:
9 Remember that you fashioned me like clay;
and will you turn me to dust again?
10 Did you not pour me out like milk
and curdle me like cheese?
11 You clothed me with skin and flesh,
and knit me together with bones and sinews.
12 You have granted me life and steadfast love,
and your care has preserved my spirit.
But it all turner sour. The message translation of verse 13 reads “But you never told me about this part. I should have known that there was more to it…” Yes, Job, you should have!
For me these chapters communicate brilliantly the human frustration of a relationship with a transcendent being. God will never explain Himself to us. Perhaps some people think the Bible is his way of making himself known, but wowza is this a complicated explanation! And find me a time when Jesus directly answers a direct question. No, I sometimes imagine if you asked Jesus something straight forward like “so shall we go left of right at the cross roads?” he give you answer that began with something like “there was a man with two goats…”
So I see Job’s frustration, I feel it often. I empathise with him when he starts to get a bit sarcastic:
3 Does it seem good to you to oppress,
to despise the work of your hands
and favour the schemes of the wicked?
4 Do you have eyes of flesh?
Do you see as humans see?
5 Are your days like the days of mortals,
or your years like human years,
6 that you seek out my iniquity
and search for my sin,
7 although you know that I am not guilty,
and there is no one to deliver out of your hand?
I like a nice rhetorical question, especially a slight spiky one. Job knows that God does have human eyes, that he is not subject to time. It’s all his way of say “I DON’T UNDERSTAND!!!” grr, arg and all that.
But what if God did answer our questions? What happens when we are sure of things? Are we loving and open and humble when we think we have all the answers? There’s another slight spiky rhetorical question for you. So in a way in our unknowing God is saving us from ourselves. There is a phrase my husband loves; “freedom from the know; freedom in the unknown”. This makes me think about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in a different way too, like God knew what we’d be like if we thought we had it all sorted. We’d want to be like Him. But we can’t, as Job is finding out.
It’s a paradox that we can be with God always, that we can talk to Him, hear Him, but never fully know, never fully understand. Now we see as in a mirror dimly, and all that.
The wisest people I know are the ones who find peace is their incomprehension. But we need Job, who feels none of this peace, to recognise those parts of ourselves that struggle like this too. It relieves me that this kind of struggle is ‘biblical’; that there are these questions preserved in scripture. It helps us accept our questions, rather than torturing ourselves with them. And it helps us see that not all questions, however important they may be, have answers…
May none of your questions and all of your prayers be answered.
photo by Brittany G on flickr